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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas from Not Just Numbers

A Merry Christmas to all of our subscribers, readers, clients and suppliers and here's to a very Prosperous 2009, despite the doom-mongers.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Backwards compatibility in Excel 2007

A word of caution:

If you are using both Excel 2007 and Excel 2003 in your organisation, as many of my clients are, you need to be aware of backwards compatibility issues.

Saving an Excel 2007 file in 2003 format does not guarantee compatibility. There is a compatibility check that is run when you save, but this does not give you the opportunity to make certain things compatible. In particular, a Pivot Table created in Excel 2007 will not work in 2003 unless created in "Compatibility Mode". For reasons best known to Microsoft, this mode can not be switched on in 2007 and can only be accessed by opening a 2003 file.

So, if you need to develop a spreadsheet (particularly with Pivot Tables) that has to run on both versions (and you wish to develop it on a 2007 machine), I suggest creating a blank file on a 2003 machine, saving it, then opening this file in 2007 as your starting point.

Crazy but necessary!

Watch a macro doesn't hide a problem

When I tell clients that I can automate complex reporting in Excel so that it involves only a couple of clicks, they invariably assume I am going to use macros. Truth is, I hardly ever do.

Macros have their uses, i.e. to automate repetitive tasks, however in most cases the requirement for the repetitive tasks can be removed by better designing the spreadsheet.

If you can do what you want without macros, the spreadsheet tends to be more intuitive, easier to develop further and more flexible. Once a macro is used, users tend to be frightened to change anything in case the macro stops working.

Use of Pivot Tables in particular can automate a great number of reporting tasks far more elegantly than macros.

So, take a look at any spreadsheets that you use that incorporate macros and consider whether there is a better way.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Banks vs Property - a thought-provoking report

I just received a link to this free report from a property investment advisor whose mailing list I am on.

Clearly he has a particular inclination towards property investment, but I thought the report was worth sharing for its rather alarming summing up of the current crisis, and the state of the banks.

Have a look yourself at:

I'd appreciate any comments from any of you once you have read it.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

2% Interest Rates - what will the banks do?

Well, I think it's fair to say that the Bank of England are no longer pulling their punches. Interest rates are now at 2% and forecast to drop further in the new year. I have even heard talk of the base rate dropping to zero!

Hopefully this now starts to filter through to businesses, although for most businesses I come across, it is access to borrowing rather than the rate that is the problem.

We may find that the banks still don't pass on the rate-cuts and use the extra margin to bolster their balance sheets. Obviously there has to come a point when they no longer need to do this and they clearly need to lend to somebody to earn any money. Hopefully that point is now closer with this further rate cut.

As usual, Robert Peston at the BBC has an interesting analysis of the problem and the dilemma the banks have got themselves in.

Arrogance of banks

Has anyone else received a guide from their bank on surviving the recession? I received one this morning entitled "Trading through the Economic Downturn".

I was expecting some advice from the bank's own experience but I have scanned it from cover to cover and they seem to have kept the advice that really worked for them to themselves. As they seem inexplicably shy about revealing their best tip, I thought I had better do it for them:

The banks' real approach to trading through the downturn:

"Gamble everything to make sure you get your bonuses and then ask the taxpayer to bail you out."

Am I missing something?